Before you go out in the snow this winter, it might be a good idea to strap on six boots—two for you, four for your dog.
That’s just some of the advice offered by experts at BluePearl Veterinary Partners, who want to make sure you have the right tools for keeping your pets safe during the coldest months of the year.
With warm fur and thick paw pads, your pet’s body may be better suited to winter than your own. Even so, the cold, ice and snow can create real dangers for dogs and cats. In some cases, the right gear adds a layer of safety.
“Just because they have a fur coat doesn’t mean they can be out in this weather for a long time,” said Dr. Kristina DePaula, a BluePearl veterinarian who is board-certified in emergency and critical care. “When it gets really cold, they are susceptible to hypothermia, just as we are.”
Here are a few suggestions for winter gear for your pet.
- Winter boots. Boots made for dogs can make sense in some cases, especially in icy cold or slushy conditions, assuming your dog will tolerate them. Boots aren’t needed for a three-minute trip to the back yard, but consider buying a set of well-made boots if your dog goes outside for extended periods, said DePaula. If your pet goes outside without boots, make sure to clean road salt or snow off the paws afterward, using water at room temperature.
- A GPS pet tracker. You can pinpoint the location of your dogs or cats in real time if they are wearing a GPS tracker such as the Whistle. This is particularly important in winter, because a layer of snow takes away many familiar scents that normally help pets find their way back home.
- Sweaters or jackets. Although your dog’s fur provides adequate protection for many short jaunts outside, it’s not crazy to buy a sweater. They’re most useful for pets with low body fat or light coats, such as greyhounds. Make sure any sweater fits well and does not restrict movement.
- A dog leash—but not the retractable kind. Retractable leashes seem like they give you more control, but not always. It’s far too easy for your dog to run out the whole 16-foot length of the leash, as you desperately use your mitten-covered thumb to push down the little button that is supposed stop the leash from reeling out. “This could knock you over on an icy day and you could injure yourself,” DePaula said. Or your dog could run into the street, in front of a car, while still on the leash. So instead, keep your dog on a non-retractable leash and pull up the slack.
- Lights and reflective wear. Chances are good you’ll be walking your dog in the dark, but that can be dangerous. Get a flashing clip-on light like bicycle riders use—you can find them for less than $10. Or look for a runner’s vest with reflective coating. Reflective dog collars are available for less than $15. “These lights and reflective wear can help both you and your dog stay safe,” DePaula said.
If winter accidents do occur, most BluePearl hospitals are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with veterinarians always on hand. All BluePearl hospitals are staffed with veterinarians who have taken years of additional training to become certified as specialists in such areas as veterinary surgery, oncology, neurology, internal medicine, critical care and others.